Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It's just like starting over.....

Welcome to 2018.

I know I almost disappeared in 2017, but the website is still there and I have made a few updates.

I promise that 2018 will see a lot more activity on the website. As well as a bit of a refresh, I have a number of updates to add.

The "Re-unification Express" magazine sort of ground to a halt as well. This was partly through lack of energy and partly because it seems to get harder and harder to find new info about Vietnam Railways.

One good thing that has happened is the number of videos depicting current VNR operations has increased significantly on YouTube. If you look very carefully there are also a few "old" videos also posted.

I will try to publish a "2017" annual issue to cover last year and then try to get back into the swing with Volume 2 Issue 1 to clearly show that I intend to continue.

Towards the end of 2017 I was given very short notice to move so I'm only now settling in and finding some time to update and refresh.

Here's something I found during the year. The photos show the final connection of the "Trans Indochine" in 1936 with Emperor Bao Dai and Governor General Rene Robin in attendance. For the first time trains could run all the way from Saigon to Hanoi.

That's it for this time. Just thought I'd touch base and explain what my plans are for this year.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I'm back....

Hi. Yes it's me again.

Doesn't time fly?

I know I haven't been around to visit you for a while but I've had a few car problems which have kept me at home.

I hope you're not too cross.

No, actually I had to go back into hospital for a few days, recover from that, then a visit from my stepdaughter from Vietnam (I had to organize the visa etc.) , then Christmas, New Year and Tet and the extremely hot weather we've been having here in Sydney (3 days of 46 degrees would you believe) meant that I lost interest in a lot of things or didn't have time (don't look at my garden!).

On top of that I started building a new Australian based model railway layout. There aren't enough hours in the day. Where did I find the time to go to work?

A litle DSVN news. A new set of approximately 30 new coaches is being built/has been built at the Di An works near Saigon. Externally the coaches don't look that different to the current ones but utilize the latest technology including a new type of seating.

The rail system isn't fairing all that well at the moment with budget airlines such as VietJet 'stealing' passengers that used to travel by train because of discounted fares and of course faster travel times. Two hours instead of 2 1/2 days between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. For business people in particular it's an easy choice. The loss of the Ghenh Bridge didn't help causing significant revenue loss. With the new bridge up and running hopefully this will ease. Revenue in 2016 was only 70% of that in 2015. Not a good sign.

At some stage this year we'll be going back to Vietnam, with a special trip to Quang Tri but while I've asked 'she who must be obeyed' for the dates she hasn't got back to me yet. At least it will give me a chance to refresh my VNR photo collection.

I've  been doing a little work on my Ga Hong Ha model railway layout but not a lot.
Here's a couple of pikkies:

Of course the Japanese signs on the new buildings will be replace with Vietnamese ones.

As part of my New Year resolution ("back on track in '17"), I'm hurriedly working on the almost complete issue 7 of the 'Re-Unification Express' and working on issue 8 almost in parallel. Issue 7 will be the last issue in volume 1, with issue 8 becoming volume 2 number 1.

Check the website for the two issues in the next few days. I've done this to signal clearly that it's a new year even if it is the year of the rooster (I'm a tiger).

Until next time....

Monday, September 26, 2016

Back Again....


After a three day stay in hospital and a few weeks at home I'm now back from my operation/recovery.

Unfortunately while I was in hospital the hosting company for my website "Railways in Vietnam"  decided to suspend my account! This hopefully has now been sorted out.

Unfortunately I cannot access my website through Firefox or Microsoft Edge but can access it through TOR (if you don't know what TOR is, try googling). I hope you're having better luck than me in accessing Railways In Vietnam.

My operation and the access problems have also meant "Re-Unification Express" No. 7 is delayed as well. It will happen but I'm not giving a firm date. Of course if you can't access the website then you can't access the e-mag anyway.

I will continue to communicate with my host and hopefully full access will be restored.

In the meantime I've done a little more work on my Ga Hong Ha model and have started doing the drawings for the background market building (Cho Hong Ha) based on the market at Phan Rang.

I've also been doing various bits and pieces on the layout such as installing power poles, fences, ugrading scenery etc and have replaced a couple of buildings with new ones and moved a couple of other buildings around. 

I don't know about you but I'm not a great fan of electrical work, but I've finally decided to bite the bullet and install a proper 'twin cab' system for the layout rather than the temporary one I have at the moment. Remembering that I have to be careful when I bend over because the operation was on my neck, this will take a little time, but seeing I'm retired that shouldn't be a problem. My time is my own (or at least some of it - the rest belongs to "she who must be obeyed").

Hopefully everything will be back to normal soon.

Until next time....


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Patience is a virtue.....

This is my first post for a little while.

It's basically just to inform you, dear reader, that I will be going into hospital to have one of my thyroids (is this how you say it?) removed early next week.

I'm assured that it is a 'straightforward' operation so I should be back on deck after a short time.

If there's anyone reading this who has had a similar problem or has a similar problem you will know that this problem tends to cause tiredness, and in my case shortness of breathe due to my trachea being partially blocked, and plays havoc with your internal clock

It.s not an excuse but it is a reason why "Re-Unification Express"  number 7, is still to see the light of day.

I've also changed the software I use to produce the issues, so as with all new software I have been going through a steep learning curve. The new software is a bit more flexible than the previous package. For example I can add 'live' internet links. So in the long run this should make the magazine a more interesting one.

Issue number 7 is almost complete so please be patient.

With Saigon to Bien Hoa trains back in operation it's good to see DSVN has survived it's 'operation' as well, that is, the building of the new Ghenh Bridge.

Those who have written to me either at 'railwaysofvietnam' or 're-unificationexpress' I must apologize for not keeping up to date. My aim is to sit down and go through both sets of email and to answer as many as I can in the next few weeks.

I have made some small updates to the Railways in Vietnam website and added a 'Trams' page. This will be basically photographs for the time being. If you want some more information  Tim Dolings excellent publication "Railways and Tramways of Vietnam" should be your first port of call.

 See you after the operation....

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Onward and ever upward.....

Great news everybody.

Issue no. 6 of the Re-Unification Express e-magazine is now up and available to be downloaded.

 This issue has 2 extra pages so I can fit everything in I wanted to, so a small bonus. Because of the large number of images, be prepared for a large file size, despite a lot of compressing of individual images.

I promise the next issue won't take as long. Issue 7 should be available in July, perhaps with not quite so many pages but at least close to time.

You might remember the recent disaster with the Ghenh Bridge near Saigon. (see previous posts), well apparently the new bridge, costing some US$13.5 million dollars will be opened  around June 26, a month ahead of schedule.

To build such a bridge in three months is quite outstanding. If the same job needed to be carried out here on Australia, it would probably take a couple of years, what with environmental surveys, health and safety checks, site inspections, river surveys, wild life surveys, the tender process and so on.

The above photo shows work well under way on the new bridge in early June. Image from Than Nien News.

On another topic, here are a couple of recent images of my "Ga Hong Ha" model railway layout.

There's still a lot of work to do but It is looking better don't you think? I really must start constructing some more rolling stock. That BNSF locomotive looks completely out of place!

Until next time......

Friday, May 20, 2016

Slowly... slowly.....

Since returning from Vietnam in March I have not been all that well. Apparently an enlarged thyroid is causing shortness of breathe and tiredness.

This has meant serious delays to the Re-Unification Express e-mag and the updating of the web site.

I have lots of bits and pieces to update and lots of photos to post, but a serious lack of inclination to do so.

I am due for an operation in the near future, quite straightforward I'm told, and that should renew my ability to get on with my plans.

In the meantime the much delayed Issue 6 of the magazine should be available in the next couple of days and then Number 7 to follow, hopefully before my operation.

In the meantime the rebuilding of the Ghenh Bridge continues with trains providing a local service from Saigon to Di An and ex Hanoi trains terminating at Bien Hoa.

Carriages have had to be moved by truck so that rolling stock is in the right place, a major undertaking in itself.

A plus for this is that the trains from Di An to Saigon and return are proving very popular, the nearest Saigon gets to a suburban service. Hopefully they will continue after the bridge restoration and run through to Bien Hoa.

Initially the plan was to restore the two spans that fell into the river, but the Government has now decided that the entire bridge should be upgraded, still with the same completion date of sometime in July.

Another recent upgrade is the new main station building at Bien Hoa, opened last September.

The photo above shows the old building, parts of which seemed to have survived colonialism, war and peace for nearly a century, but now gone to be replaced by a modern concrete and glass structure.

I suppose customers need modern facilities, but it is a shame when such historical buildings are demolished.

On the modelling front I have basically completed the  Coopmart supermarket and am now embarking on the building of the front of a market (Cho), based on the Market at Phan Rang, but smaller.

I will just be building the front wall as it will be placed against the backdrop.

Until next time...........

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Home again....

Back from Vietnam earlier this week.

I tried to post while I was there but access to bloggs is a bit hit or miss when you're in Vietnam. The Government sometimes denies access (they say they don't) because of concerns about bloggs being too political.

First in my last blogg I suggested that a rail line had once existed as far as Can Tho. This of course is not correct, it only went as far as My Tho so "nothing to see here" when we got to Can Tho.

The city of course relies entirely on river traffic and road transport. There are a large number of coaches each day between Can Tho and Saigon and would you believe not all are 'sleeper' coaches, so the three and bit hours sitting up wasn't too onerous.

A rail line would be very useful I would think for both freight and passengers.

As always we travelled to Thap Cham by train. I was looking forward to sampling the refurbished coaches of SE7/8.

The new seats were quite comfortable but no tray table, so you had to balance your food tray on your knees. The actual ride quality doesn't seem to have changed, still a bit bumpy (probably as much to do with the narrow metre gauge as to anything else), and the nearest toilet was still of the 'squat' variety (I had imagined they would have been replaced by western style toilets as part of the upgrade). Some European tourist passengers (particularly the women) weren't impressed.

The old cloth curtains have been replaced with shutters, but the windows were just as dirty as always.

The new uniforms looked smart but the food available was exactly the same as before and some staff still hadn't quite grasped the concept of "good customer service" but there has been an improvement.

Another area that DSVN needs to address is the custom of local passengers using the passenger services as some sort of freight/parcels system. The number of large cardboard boxes, bags of fruit and vegetables etc manhandled into the carriages is far too many. These items should be stored in a baggage car.  The bus companies seem to have worked this out, but not the DSVN apparently.

The major event which occurred just before we returned was the destruction of the
Ghenh Bridge, a major river crossing just outside of Saigon on Sunday March 20. If you don't know, the rail/motorbike bridge was hit by a barge and several spans are now at the bottom of the river. Luckily no train was crossing at the time and no-one was hurt, but it has now caused a major problem. Trains are currently being terminated at Bien Hoa and passengers are being ferried to Saigon by bus. This not so bad because Bien Hoa is near Saigon, but with any sort of temporary crossing not being available for at least three months there is now the problem of the locomotives, passenger stock and freight vehicles being stuck on the southern side of the river both at Saigon itself and at the major workshops at Di An.

The bridge was built by the French sometime between 1902 and 1909 and had originally carried cars as well but these were diverted to another bridge in the past few years.

DSVN now has to decide whether to build a completely new bridge or try to repair/restore the current one.

The captain and crew of the barge have been arrested.

Until next time....